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Nyakagezi Gorillas Return to Mgahinga National Park

Nyakagezi Gorillas Return to Mgahinga National Park


The Uganda Wildlife Authority announces the return of the Mgahinga habituated gorilla group, Nyakagezi, to Mgahinga National Park Uganda. This group crossed into Rwanda on 12th November, 2004, and returned on April 23, 2005.

The Nyakagezi group has in the past crossed to either DR Congo or Rwanda into the contiguous “Great Virunga Ecosystem” that straddles the 3 countries and into the National Parks of Virunga on the DR Congo side and Volcanoes on the Rwanda side, only that this time it stayed longer in Rwanda leading to speculation that it was being “held” in Rwanda. The return therefore puts an end to all speculation.

Uganda Wildlife Authority has a functional working relationship with ICCN and ORTPN the wildlife conservation agencies for DR Congo and Rwanda respectively through the support of the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) to manage and monitor the gorilla groups in whichever country they are since the gorillas do not know any boarders.

So contrary to speculation by some people that the Nyakagezi group has been “held” in Rwanda we were always confident that this group would return as indeed it has. The group returned on April 23, 2005 at 2.28 pm and has been in Uganda since then to date, April 27, 2005. Movement of gorillas within their home range is a natural ecological phenomenon. A gorilla home range is determined by food availability and is approximately a radius of 24 kilometres but can even be stretched further. So considering that Mgahinga is only 4 kilometres straight line distance from the park boundary to Rwanda and DR. Congo, the home range stretches into the 2 other countries for even a bigger area.

Even when the group was in Rwanda through our functional relationship we were jointly monitoring it and there were NO tourists on the Rwanda side tracking the group again contrary to speculation.

The primary responsibility of UWA is conservation. And for as long as the gorillas are safe from any danger as was in this case there should be no cause for alarm. We are sure that anytime the gorillas will again cross over to Rwanda or DR Congo and can stay as long as the natural conditions are

favourable. This should therefore end any “wild” speculation that has been raging in the local and international media and among tour operators.
Since the Nyakagezi group returned to Uganda our field staff have dutifully been monitoring them and actually although only 8 crossed they returned 10. Prior to their return our counterparts in Rwanda rang our field staff to inform them that the group appeared to be on the trail back to Uganda, which again is common practice under our collaborative effort. UWA rangers then took position at 11.20 am on April 23, 2005 at Rugezi swamp where the gorillas eventually arrived at 2.28 pm. The rangers immediately identified the famous Silverback and group leader, Bugingo and the second silverback Mark. A third and a female Munezero was too identified together with the new entrant to the group with an infant. Another female Mafia was too identified. On the following day April 24, 2005, 8 nests were counted for the mature ones and 2 small nests for the infants thus confirming the number of 10.

Since there are 2 new individuals that have joined the group from the “wild” (unhabituated) and given that for the last 5 months no tourist has visited the group, we shall continue to monitor the group for a while before any tourists can be allowed to track the group again. This also of-course depends on how long they stay on the Ugandan side.